Afghanistan has long suffered from instabilities and conflicts that cause a gender gap. The Taliban’s well-documented oppression of women in Afghanistan during their rule from 1996 through 2001 included enormous restrictions against women. They were denied freedom of movement, access to health services, and the right to work. Physical abuse against women was encouraged and they were arbitrarily detained and denied education.
Following the fall of the Taliban, a new window of opportunities opened for women with the 2001 Bonn Agreement, which established a new constitution and increased emphasis on gender mainstreaming. The Bonn Agreement called for specific attention to the role of women and established a dedicated government structure for this purpose, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
Then, in the 2004 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Article 22 stated that citizens of Afghanistan have equal rights and duties under the law. Afghanistan also ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
But despite all of this forward-thinking legislation, the legal system of Afghanistan still promotes the dominance of men with statutory and customary rules. In our government, most people in high-level positions are men. Few women work as ministers or deputy ministers. In our legal system only one ministry chair belongs to a woman.
In Afghanistan, men are making statutory rules for their own benefit, but at the same time our customs are the main reason that Afghan families do not give the same opportunities and facilities to daughters and wives. For example, if someone’s son from Badakhshan province passes a university entrance exam and wants to come to Kabul to continue his higher education, then he is supported and permitted to come and live in the hostel.
But when it is a girl, the rules are changed. She is not allowed to come because the families, especially fathers and brothers, want to follow old customs and rules. Even after the 2004 regulation, women and men could not lessen the gaps between them.
Women in both rural and urban areas face the same problems. For example, former President Karzai always said that he wanted to empower women, but because he was from Kandahar his wife did not appear in the media or work at a job.
Similarly, our current President Ghani says he supports women and wants to provide equal opportunity for girls to continue their studies in rural areas, but this year not one girl from Paktia province was permitted to take the university entrance exam.
The government of Afghanistan hasn’t brought gender equality in politics, Afghan organizations, or even academic institutions. If we survey each organization and academic institution in Afghanistan, the gender gaps and inequalities are obvious.
There are organizations working to remove gender gaps in Afghanistan, but the policies come from other countries and are not feasible in Afghanistan. The solution for gender inequality is to educate the public and increase awareness. Then we can eliminate gender inequalities by addressing the foundation of these problems.